Fishing the Blue River in Summit County, Colorado.
Fly Fishing Fishing the Blue River in Summit County, Colorado. © Lauryn Wachs/TNC

Stories in Colorado

Working with the Outdoor Recreation Industry

Outdoor recreation and conservation go hand in hand.

Colorado has quickly grown to be an epicenter of the outdoor recreation industry. Of course, it’s no wonder to those of us who live, work and play here. Colorado has more than 300 days of sunshine, amazing biking and hiking trails, world-class skiing and rafting, plentiful campgrounds, and some of the most-visited national parks in the country. Outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the state.

At least 65 percent of state residents participate in outdoor recreation each year (not including fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing) according to the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association. Outdoor recreation in Colorado generates $13.2 billion in consumer spending, $994 million in state and local tax revenue and 125,000 Colorado jobs. This economic activity is a boon for both urban and rural communities across Colorado.

All of these abundant outdoor recreation opportunities rely on one thing: a healthy environment. “Healthy lands, air, water and forests are critical not only to the outdoor industry, but to our quality of life as Coloradans,” says Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “The outdoor industry cares about the environment, as evidenced recently by the Outdoor Retailer trade show’s move from Utah to Colorado this coming year, largely over support for public lands.”

 “The Nature Conservancy is a leader in conserving the places and taking on the issues that outdoor enthusiasts care about, such as conserving lands, protecting water supplies and tackling climate change,” says Colorado Trustee Ken Gart, whose family has a long history in the outdoor recreation industry.

An avid biker, Gart is equally dedicated to conservation. “A top personal passion for me is to preserve the natural beauty and treasures of our state,” says Gart. “The Conservancy’s science-based approach creates huge results in a short time and ties to a very bold and long-term vision.”

Protecting Colorado’s abundant natural resources for future generations is a clear goal for Carlos Fernández, state director for the Conservancy in Colorado.

“We all need to continue to work together to find solutions that benefit nature and people,” says Fernández, who was recently named to Benitez’s advisory council. “At the Conservancy, we look forward to continuing to work with the outdoor recreation industry and outdoor enthusiasts to help protect and restore the landscapes and wildlife that are so important and special to our state.”